The Beauty of Holiness: Anglicanism and Architecture in Colonial South Carolina (Richard Hampton Jenrette Series in Architecture and the Decorative Arts)
Louis P. Nelson
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Intermingling architectural, cultural, and religious history, Louis Nelson reads Anglican architecture and decorative arts as documents of eighteenth-century religious practice and belief. In The Beauty of Holiness, he tells the story of the Church of England in colonial South Carolina, revealing how the colony's Anglicans negotiated the tensions between the persistence of seventeenth-century religious practice and the rising tide of Enlightenment thought and sentimentality.
Nelson begins with a careful examination of the buildings, grave markers, and communion silver fashioned and used by early Anglicans. Turning to the religious functions of local churches, he uses these objects and artifacts to explore Anglican belief and practice in South Carolina. Chapters focus on the role of the senses in religious understanding, the practice of the sacraments, and the place of beauty, regularity, and order in eighteenth-century Anglicanism. The final section of the book considers the ways church architecture and material culture reinforced social and political hierarchies.
Richly illustrated with more than 250 architectural images and photographs of religious objects, The Beauty of Holiness depends on exhaustive fieldwork to track changes in historical architecture. Nelson imaginatively reconstructs the history of the Church of England in colonial South Carolina and its role in public life, from its early years of ambivalent standing within the colony through the second wave of Anglicanism beginning in the early 1750s.
colonial South Carolina. As members of the society, these men would have had access to a wide variety of published architectural literature.⁹⁰ A 1770 list of the books in the collection includes works by architects Sir William Chambers, James Gibbs, John Harris, Batty Langley, and William Pain, among 40 CONSTRUCTING MATERIAL RELIGION others.⁹¹ At least seven of the fifteen commissioners are also known to have traveled to London sometime in the 1720s or 1730s. While in London, these men would
described as “well furnished with a pulpit, a pulpit cloath, and a Cushion, a Reading Desk, convenient seats, a Communion Table, a Table Cloath and Table Linnen.”⁵ The church had been built “at the charge of the neighborhood and by the peculiar assistance of the Rt. Honorable Sr. Nathaniel Johnson Knight (deceased) at that time governor, and since kept in repair by voluntary contributions.”⁶ Just as the French church on the Santee became a parish church after the 1706 Church Act, so too this
pattern evident in other early churches in the colony. The 1714 church in St. James, Goose Creek, has what is clearly a great door opening through the west elevation, while smaller doors open through the two longer sides of the building. The northern and southern elevations of the first church in St. Thomas’s had doors sheltered by a “handsome porch, upon columns,” while only a little door with no porch accessed the building through the west. While the location of the great door differs, these
planned church into a cruciform. In embracing such a form, Anglicans in the Caribbean might have been seeking out ways to buttress the long sidewalls of their traditionally longitudinal churches in the volatile Caribbean climate.⁶⁰ The power of hurricane-force winds was well known in South Carolina and the Caribbean. In 1675 a major hurricane overwhelmed Barbados, extensively damaging all of the churches on that island.⁶¹ Devastating hurricanes COUNTRIES, TIM ES, AN D MEN ’ S MANNERS 77 F
variation in plan types and the embrace of the articulated chancel seems to ally Anglican architecture in the two younger colonies of South Carolina and Maryland, the embrace of the cruciform plan in South Carolina and Virginia suggests that Anglicans in these two colonies identified more closely with Anglicans in the Caribbean, where that form appears with notable frequency. The Anglican architecture of the middle and later decades of the eighteenth century in South Carolina is frequently